It's official! Calendula is a flower you didn’t even know you needed
You probably love flowers planted in your garden, housed in a cool vintage vase, even braided into your hair—but did you know that flowers can be just as amazing for your skin? Yes, really. The pretty plants house a ton of beneficial properties that can soothe, hydrate, tighten, or protect your skin. Calendula, a.k.a. pot marigold, can do all of the above, plus some.
First, what is calendula exactly?
Fun fact: Calendula (pronounced kuh-len-juh-luh) gets its name from the Latin word kalendae, which means new moon or the first day of every month. That’s because the bright yellow and orange perennial is believed to only bloom on the first of the month. Its extract, which comes from the leaves, petals, and seeds, is traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine, but it’s also used in Western medicine to internally treat ulcers, prevent muscle spasms, reduce fevers, and more. Calendula’s benefits don’t stop there. Topically, it’s just as healing for your skin.
So what are the skin benefits of calendula?
It might sound dramatic, but it’s true that inflammation is the root of a lot of skin evil. You can blame inflammation for your breakouts, rosacea, eczema, sensitivity, even a breakdown of collagen. All these inflammatory skin conditions can benefit from calendula’s soothing effects.
The anti-inflammatory properties are thanks to calendula flower’s potent dose of flavonoid, saponins, and triterpenoids. These give calendula the ability to prevent your body’s release of histamines, which can cause redness, pain, allergies, and inflammation. And when it comes to treating breakouts, calendula’s gentle nature means it won’t dry your skin out and is safe to use with other anti-acne ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.
It’s really moisturizing
You’ve probably heard about the nourishing benefits of a diet rich in essential fatty acids. Well, those same essential fatty acids, like the linoleic acid in calendula oil or extract, can also nourish your skin from the outside. They give your skin cells the ability to absorb nutrients and hold onto water longer (great for those with perpetually dry skin). On the surface, this will look like more supple, nourished, smoother skin.
It can protect your skin from external aggressors
The same flavonoids that give calendula the ability to soothe skin also make it a top-notch protector. Flavonoids function as a powerful antioxidant, which helps protect your skin against free radical damage. If you need a reminder: “Free radicals are highly destructive molecules that can wreak havoc on your skin,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, an NYC-based dermatologist. “They are unstable and in search of a missing electron. When free radicals steal an electron from other molecules, it leaves them unstable in return.” Antioxidants, like the flavonoids in calendula extract, pair with those free radicals, essentially neutralizing them before they can do damage that leads to premature aging (increased fine lines and wrinkles), hyperpigmentation, and dullness.
It keeps your skin healthy
For hundreds of years, calendula has been a go-to ingredient for wound healing. In fact, one study even found that calendula significantly decreased the healing time for C-section scars. The women treated with calendula ointment reported their incisions were less swollen and red than those receiving standard hospital treatment.
The healing properties come from calendula’s ability to increase blood flow and oxygen to the skin. This increased blood flow to your skin means more nutrition, which helps your skin function at its healthiest and therefore look its best.
It can firm your skin
In the short term, the nourishing benefits of calendula help to plump the surface of your skin to give you tighter, more supple skin almost instantly. In the long term, both the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help to protect your precious collagen and elastin supply.
Calendula as Sunscreen
The efficacy of calendula as a sunscreen was tested in vitro (meaning in a petri dish or test tube). The idea behind this study is that the properties of calendula as a cell rejuvenator may also hold true as a sunscreen. More research needs to be done in this area. Therefore, it's prudent to use an approved sunscreen for UV protection.
Calendula is primarily known as a healing plant because of its soothing abilities. Although a gentle herb, the healing effects derived from Calendula petals are very powerful, making it a must-have in the medicine cabinet. It is beneficial for any wound healing you may need including insect bites, bruises, blisters, cuts, and cold sores. Topical application of Calendula is used to keep wounds clean and help new tissue to grow. It is often used to help poorly healing wounds, those that are exhibiting signs of tenderness, redness, or inflammation, to correct course.
The healing herb is also effective in treating minor burns, including sunburn. It assists in sun protection and may consequently be included in sunscreen formulas for preventative care. Calendula cream, ointment, or healing balm may be applied to wounds to reduce swelling and their antimicrobial components, specifically their antifungal agents, can prevent secondary infection, leading to a quicker healing process.
Assists with Digestive and Immune System
Just like topical Calendula can remedy external wounds and burns, it also soothes internal wounds and burns like ulcers, heartburn or irritable bowel syndrome. It has a protective effect for the stomach that improves digestion by repairing the gut wall while relieving discomfort in the meantime.
The vulnerary capacity of Calendula can be called on to kick the leftover infection caused by a passing flu or cold. Calendula has been shown to strengthen the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. This is likely due to the fact that Calendula is antimicrobial, which means it slows or kills infection to prevent it from spreading. Its antibacterial properties give it the power to fight that lingering cough or congestion you can’t seem to get rid of.
Some research has established a link between gut health and mental health, including the experience of depression. With Calendula’s ability to repair and improve gut function, this connection would compound the impact of Calendula to positively affect brain activity as well.
Slows Development of Wrinkles
Calendula has also been found to assist in slowing the development of wrinkles. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in Calendula have been found to significantly protect against oxidative stress in human skin cells. Oxidative stress is an imbalance of damaging atoms and antioxidants. Oxidative stress plays a large role in the aging process as well as the development of several illnesses. Calendula allows it to keep skin hydrated and healthy making it a great component for daily lotions or lip balm.
How to grow calendula?
If you are interested in bringing Calendula into your life, you can always buy dried flowers and receive all the benefits the plant has to offer minus the lively colors of live flowers. But, if you are interested in gardening, Calendula is a great addition for even the most novice gardener.
Calendula is an easy-care, low maintenance plant. It isn’t picky about its soil type and requires limited watering with, of course, consideration of the season. It is drought resistant and frost tolerant. Calendula plants do not require any special care. It can grow in the sun or in the shade, in an outside planter, or in a pot indoors. So many options!
Once Calendula begins to bloom, harvest the flowers every 2-4 days to keep the flowers full and abundant. As you pick the flowers, more will blossom. In mild climates, Calendula may be a perennial (a plant that lives more than two years). Although Calendulas can weather light frost, where there are more severe winters, Calendula is typically considered an annual (a plant that has a one-year life span). Where it is an annual, however, it is capable of self-seeding for the following year.
Ways to use calendula
One prevalent way of getting many of the benefits Calendula has to offer to prepare it as a tea. This requires powdered or dried Calendula that is then steeped in boiling water for 10-20 minutes. This tea can be used to drink or as a mouth rinse to treat a sore throat or wounds within the mouth. If steeped to be especially strong, Calendula tea can also be used as a healing warm compress for eye infections.
Calendula oil is a common method of topical medicinal use. It is made by infusing Calendula flowers in a warmed oil for several weeks, stirring it daily. Some oils to consider are carrier oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compounds in the oil are fantastic for wound healing and the various skin conditions already mentioned. In addition, the resulting oil can be used in formulas for smooth application of products like sunscreens to get the natural protective and remedy benefits of the plant.
Once you have an infused oil, you may be interested in cooking up a cream or Calendula ointment for easy topical application. This can be created by combining the oil with additional ingredients like beeswax, additional essential oils.
Extract from the Calendula flower can also be used as a soothing ingredient within formulas for many products used habitually like deodorant and body lotion. These products help bring the healing properties of Calendula into your daily regimen.
Possible Side Effects
You should not use calendula if you are allergic to ragweed, daisies, marigold, or plants in the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Doing so could cause an allergic reaction. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid calendula because ingesting calendula may affect your hormone levels and induce menstruation. Anyone taking medication or scheduled for surgery should discuss calendula use with their physician first.
This botanical has years of use for its healing and soothing properties, which make it a favorite for skin care formulators and DIY enthusiasts alike. If you are looking for an ingredient that can help keep skin hydrated, temper inflammation, and do a host of other things, calendula might be for you.